Thursday, June 28, 2007

Serious Pop

Caught a snippet of an interview with a Uganda pop musician on NPR last night. He was doing songs about the atrocious health conditions in his country.

This is a paraphrase, to the best of my memory from a musician whose name I didn’t catch, when asked how he can do a “pop” song about such serious matters. Imagine said with an accent:

“When I sing about despair, I do not sing with a down face, I sing about despair with a face of hope. People take my songs light, they take my songs as if a joke. But they take it as a joke that they need.”

Anybody catch the interview?

Just my thoughts,


Sunday, June 24, 2007

True Vegas

Joel and I were looking for someplace to eat. Two doors down from the hotel was a small building marked as a “Family Italian Restaurant.”

A little lasagna, why not?

After parking, we noticed that the structure had no windows. Odd, but this is Vegas after all.

Oh, and no front door. We circled the joint, finally finding an entrance hidden in the back, through a tent of heavy drapes.

The back door – a thick, etched-glass pane with a big brass knob in the center – led us into a small vestibule.

Very small.

With no door leading into the restaurant. Just three walls, several photos of what looked like mobsters, a sign announcing, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone – this means you!” and a button for a buzzer.

We looked around for a door, a knob, something. No such luck. Both of us feared the buzzer; that wasn’t an option, so we turned to leave.

Before my hand could encircle the brass ball leading to freedom, a small window in the wall banged open – ala speakeasy style. A man barked from behind the window, “Whadda ya want?”

“Uh, maybe din-“

“Is that seating for two, then?” he barked on, clearly not interested in what we wanted, but more interested in what we were going to be given.

Sure, you might have had the sense to walk out, but you weren’t there. There was no choice.

“Yeah. Two.”

The window slammed shut. We stared at the window, which must have looked silly to the maitre de when the adjacent wall swung open.

A smart right turn, and we entered the restaurant.

Small. Dark. Booths of squeaky red leather-like material.

Did I mention dark? Each menu came with a small book light attached on a string – the only way to read the menu.

A man sang songs from the Frank Sinatra songbook while roving the restaurant. Only Sinatra would be heard that evening, naturally.

A large poster of Al Capone – signed, but whether by Al or someone else I couldn’t say – overlooked the proceedings.

Al would have been proud – the food was very, very good. The wait staff friendly and prompt, yet not too nosy. And even the roving minstrel hit all the notes at the correct pitch and tempo.

So if asked back, well, that’s an offer I wouldn’t refuse.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Importance-ly

My short, IMPORTANCE OF BLIND DATING continues to have a life on the festival circuit. Next stop:

Santa Clarita Valley Film Festival’s Open Screen
Sunday, July 8th, 7:00 pm
Repertory East Playhouse 24266 San Fernando Road Newhall, CA
More info at

Here’s a quote about the flick from the group in England that screened the movie as part of a Valentine’s Day celebration:

"The screening of The Importance of Blind Dating was so successful that Folly has been asked to mount a full blown romantic film festival around Valentine's Day in 2008. It was a mix of shorts from the UK, Germany, Japan and the USA. We saved your film till last, and it worked perfectly. The audience loved it, and I found the final words from the flower seller to be a particularly lovely way to end the evening."
- Mark Daniels, Program Director, Folly Arts Organization, Lancashire, England


Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, June 19, 2007


"The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new."

– Samuel Johnson

Sunday, June 17, 2007


It’s not the marvelous acting – as pure, raw, and layered as it is.

It’s not the music. Sure, probably half of the film is music, brilliant songs that carry the heart, text and subtext of virtually every scene.

No, I think it is the simplicity.

The complex simplicity that leads to the aching beauty.

ONCE is a beautiful gem of a movie. Writer/director John Carney keeps it sweet and simple, allowing the minimal storytelling to flow without heavy exposition, distracting visuals, or overwrought acting.

This movie is the Fred Astaire of film – achieving a complexity of movement with impossible technique, all the while looking effortless.

We haven’t seen that in a long time.

Nor have we seen something else in a long time: a love story about love.

In the past several decades, we have moved as a society towards a facile viewing of intimacy, a generalizing of love, a watering down of passion. The notion that love is special and extraordinary has been replaced in the cultural psyche with a sentiment more common and rather easily replaced.

Sure, when watching a YOU’VE GOT MAIL, for instance, it would be sad if Hanks doesn’t end up in Ryan’s bed. But not devastating, as we know that Hanks will end up in another’s bed by the day after tomorrow; as will Ryan. They both start the film in intimate relationships; they will find such relationships again.

It is harder for romance to resonate.

ONCE resonates.

I won’t tell you too much on how they do this – I would rather you found the movie and experienced it for yourself.

But I will say this: the film embodies the reality of our desire to make intimacy facile; and at the same time embraces the virtues of fidelity, devotion and compassion.

But you don’t need to know any of that. What you need to know is that this small movie (running under an hour and a half) is delightful.

And entertaining.

And achingly beautiful.

Just my thoughts,


Ps. This movie is rated “R” for language. Lots and lots of language. The “F” word is bandied about with excessive frequency. Of course, it is done in Irish accents, with an “oo” as in “coo” in the middle of the word, as if pigeons were warbling the lines. A dove talking about his cooing hard times in this cooing world of broken cooing hearts – well, that might ease the sting of the vulgarity a tad. But I wanted you to be cooing warned.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Boundaries Three

From THE LEADERSHIP LESSONS OF JESUS, Bob Briner and Ray Pritchard:

"Contrary to popular opinion, order does not stifle creativity, but promotes it. It does not restrict freedom, but enhances it for the greatest number. Disorder is a kind of tyranny in which good things seldom happen. When disorder reigns, people suffer in many ways.

"There is a vast difference between order and regimentation. Jesus didn’t tell the five thousand to sit down in groups, organized alphabetically by last name, to count off, and remain silent until addressed. Instead, He created order that was not ominous and restrictive, but pleasant and liberating.

"Regimentation stifles creativity and restricts freedom, but order creates an environment where freedom and creativity flourish."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Boundaries Two

“This is not a trail.”

As an artist, I like boundaries.

I know, we’re supposed to be all, “I won’t be held down by the man! Or by Chico!” But the truth is, artists tend to thrive on boundaries.

Not restrictive boundaries; not legalism. Bob Briner in The Leadership Lessons of Jesus, makes the distinction between order, regimentation and chaos. Regimentation – not so good for artistic flow. Chaos, definitely not good for artistic flow.

But order… boundaries… restrictions… limitations…

Madeleine L’Engle claims that the drive of the artist is to create order, to rail against chaos.

I remember an assignment for directing class in college. We were asked to put together a directing plan for a play, with one caveat: there were no limitations. No budget restrictions, no space restrictions, no casting restrictions. We could cast dead people if we wished; we could perform it on the moon if we wished.

It was one of those projects where we had a couple of months to complete. And we needed it – because after rejoicing in how cool it is to not have restrictions, we were all paralyzed.

Tell me I have a table, a chair, and two actors – one of whom is mute – and the creative juices start flowing.

Tell me that I have whatever and whoever I want, and crickets.

Eventually we all got over the freedom freeze. One student decided to stage Macbeth on a jumbo jet, using the aisles as the stage. Here was the big gimmick: every time ol’ Macky murdered someone, the plane would cut it’s engines, going into a screaming dive.

I was inspired by the paintings of Homer Winslow, and set King Lear on the sea. I flooded a coliseum; each sister got her own ship, and the boats would move in front of the audience for each scene.

Pretty cool, out there stuff.

Because, in reality, the first step we all took was to add boundaries to our projects. I was limited by the sea, and had to get creative. How does one divide a water kingdom? Or Gloucester’s attempt to throw himself from a cliff?

How does the staging of the Scottish play fit in an airplane aisle? Where do you put Birnham Wood?

Oh, are answers were marvelous. Because we rose above the boundaries – nay, used the boundaries – bounded off the boundaries, as it were.

Just my thoughts,


More Pics from the desert

Photos from Arches National Park.
Click to view photos at larger resolution in new window.

Sean & I had the best time finding animals or stories in the rock formations.
See if you can find the turtle in these photos.

Loving God's creation,

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Funky Writing, White Boy

An apology – to you and me. I haven’t written much here lately (thankfully Cath has had pictures and thoughts to post).

My excuse: I’ve been in a bit of a writer’s funk lately.

Writer’s funks are ironic, because the only real cure for a writer in a funk is to write.

Many famous literati, contrary to my last statement, have promoted the idea that alcohol is the restorative for a funked author. Right. In the same way that channel surfing inspires me. Escape, sure. Treatment? Maybe not.

It has been mostly the blog that I’ve been avoiding, where I tend to get more personal and honest about my thoughts.

Perhaps it is the looming anniversary of my brothers death; or my newest project feeling overwhelming; or reviewing too many scripts from other people (some convincing me that I’m not as good of a writer, so why bother; others displaying how much crap is out there, and who am I to think I’m different; and still others, probably closer in truth to me, that are good but not great… how inspired can one be striving toward “good but not great?”); or maybe I’m just in a funk.

It’s not like I am unknown for funkdom. Mope for a day or two, and break the cycle by writing in twelve hour bursts.

Some of my better work has come from such writing.

Doesn’t make the funk feel any better. Nor the idea that I’m now justifying the funk itself, and still avoiding writing.

So I’m writing mostly to explore why I am not writing.

Yeah, the irony of that isn’t lost on me either.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Blooming in Harsh Places

Walking through Zion National Park we saw so much life clinging on to the side of rocks where it looked like nothing could grow.

Hmmm...remind anyone of Christians in Hollywood?
(Surrounded by thorns, but choosing to be light instead of prickly.)

These beautiful creations are so resilient and all they need is a little bit of water seeping out of the rock and then they hold on and bloom.

Blossoms for thought:


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Boundaries One

Not all the trails in the Arches are clearly marked.

Sure the trail starts out like all of them do – very tourist friendly, much of it paved, some portions even conspicuous with handrails.

But that only gets you to the obvious view – the common sightseer spot. If you so dare, you can go beyond the basics, past the easy, ahead of the road most traveled, and get an eyeful of the less trampled vistas.

That means going past the visitor safety zone, behind the arches, and out of sight of the parking lot. And here the trails are not so clearly marked.

You are instructed to look for the cairns marking the passage. Cairns” is a fancy way of saying “pile of stones.” Of course, out here, everything is a pile of stones, so spotting a pile of stones marking a path through a pile of stones is easier said than done.

Just about when you are ready to acknowledge that you’ve been punked, you relax your eye and see the bigger picture – then the cairns come into focus, almost obvious as they mark the trail.

A bit further along, and even the cairns seem to have disappeared. Here you must go on faith – continuing in the direction the past stones sent you on, trusting that a bend would be signaled, that the feller that set the path wouldn’t forget to mark the turnings.

And when the path does divert, you pause and look for the signs. Sometimes you will see the cairns to the side, and change course.

Or maybe you will see markings of where the travelers before you sojourned, and entrust yourself to their path.

And every now and again, when a deviation seems too tempting or obvious, that little sign will appear.

“This is not a trail.”

No rebuke, no judgment; just a printed voice in the wilderness, a red board suggesting that if you want to be on the trail, this isn’t the place to be.

You pause at the top of a hill, having followed the spirit of the cairns through turn and a climb that didn’t seem like it would lead anywhere. Yet here you are, your breath sucked out by the view.

And you look behind you – the trail seems obvious from here. Looking back makes it clear, you haven’t been fooled by false divinations.

Nature piled into cairns; faith in motion; the signs of those who’ve come before; and the occasional reminder of what is not the trail.

Before leaving the paved path, you could understand why some folks would settle for the easy view.

But now, with eyes to see, you revel in the exquisiteness of intimate beauty.

Not all the trails are clearly marked.

And that is good.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, June 01, 2007

When the Slow Road is Best...

I mentioned Utah Hwy 128 (officially listed as a scenic byway) in my last post.

Winding, slow, narrow - certainly not a road to take if you need to get somewhere fast.

But once we were on this road, we were glad to "BE" - we didn't even need to "GO".

Here are some shots I took when we pulled off the road for the view.

Where we had come from.

Straight up.

And where we were heading.

When I got back to work this week, I began to mention this highlight of our trip and my boss interrupted me with "Highway 128! That's my favorite highway in the country!"

Take it. Go slow. Enjoy. Stop and go rafting (that's what I'd like to do next time). Camp. Whatever. Just check it out!

Bit by the travelin' bug,